Talmud Tips

For the week ending 6 May 2023 / 15 Iyar 5783

Sotah 37-43

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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A Blessing for a Generous Person

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “The cup of beracha is not given to a person saying a beracha (for Bircat Hamazon — Rashi) unless the person is ‘tov ayin’ (who hates theft and does acts of kindness with his money — Rashi).”

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi cites as his source a verse in Proverbs (22:9) which states, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed….” But how does this verse show that the generous person (tov ayin) should be the one saying the blessing since it seems to state the opposite, that a generous person will receive a blessing?

Answer: His proof is based on the fact that the word in the verse for “be blessed” — yevorach — is written without a vav between the beit and the reish in the word. Therefore, it can be read as yevarech, meaning “he will say the blessing.” Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the way it is pronounced, without a vav — yevorach — which means he will be blessed as well. This is also true since he also receives a blessing for saying a blessing during Bircat Hamazon for the welfare of the ba’al habayit, the one who provided the food. Since he blesses the ba’al habayit, Hashem blesses him as well, as the verse says, “I will bless those who bless you” (Gen. 12:3). (Maharsha)

Sotah 38b

The Blessing Before the Priestly Blessing

Rabbi Zeira said that Rabbi Chisda said, “Who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron, and has commanded us to bless his people Israel with love.”

This statement on our daf teaches the text of the beracha that a kohen says immediately before fulfilling the mitzvah of Bircat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing. After saying this beracha, the kohen blesses the congregation as commanded in the Torah (Bamidbar 6:22-27).

It is interesting to note that the wording of this beracha differs from the wording of all other berachot that are said before fulfilling a mitzvah. The kohen does not merely state in this beracha that he is commanded to fulfill this mitzvah. Instead, he adds that he is commanded to fulfill this mitzvah “with love.” Why?

One explanation offered is one that is based on the Midrash. It states there that one should not think that the mitzvah for the kohen to bless the congregation is simply to say the words of blessing out of a sense of duty and in haste. Rather, an essential part of the mitzvah is to bless the people with heartfelt intent and meaning every word. In short, it needs to be “with love.” This idea can be seen in the wording of the Torah’s command to the kohen, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them….” The kohen is told “to say,” which means to express the words with kindness, warmth and love. The root of “to say” is “omer,” as opposed to first word in the verse – “daber” – which means “speak” but does not connote the “softness” and “love” that describes the manner in which they were commanded to bless the congregation. (Maharitz Chiyut in the name of the Be’er Sheva)

Sotah 39a

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